New England District
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
400 Wilbraham Road, Spring field, Ma 01109
I would like to share an interesting fact that probably will come as no surprise to you. The “stereotype” of the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod being a Germanic/Scandinavian” church body in its self-portrait is pretty accurate. With no
intent other than informing you of the facts we are one of the most monolithic church bodies in terms of demographics.
The predominant background of our members is almost entirely Caucasian and with a Northern European ancestry to most of those who identify themselves as Missouri-Synod Lutherans. Ironically, the only other major church body that exceeds us in this description is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Again, I write this only as a statement of facts for this article. However, we are
making determined efforts to reach all nations and all peoples in following our Lord’s command in Matthew 28: 19-20. Certainly America is legendary for being a melting pot of many ethnic backgrounds in her citizens and the indications are that this will be an increasing reality in the future.
For that reason I rejoice in introducing to you two of our new missionaries in training. The first is Gem Gabriel who is a new missionary of the District serving in
the New London, Connecticut area of our District and specifically at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer. Gem grew up in India and found salvation in Christ in India. He has been in America for a number of years and came to work with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in the Atlantic District, serving with congregations in the Whitestone area of
New York City. He grew in his capacity among our brothers and sisters of that District but his home is in the New London area of Connecticut. His desire to serve the Savior brought him to the attention of myself and then Missions coordinator Rev. Bill Meyer. Since then Gem has worked actively with our Revitalizer Rev. Eric Sahlberg. The good news is that Gem has been accepted into the Synod’s Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology where he will be taking classes at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as he begins work as a missionary in training in New London. I am delighted that he will work hand in hand with his supervisor, the Rev. Andy Sorenson of Faith Lutheran Church, our congregation in Groton, Conn. in an arrangement that I pray proves a blessing to the Synod, the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology, our District, Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in New London, and to the Lord’s work in reaching out to all nations in southern Connecticut (and of course to now Vicar Gem Gabriel and his family!)
Our second new missionary in training is Angel Rodriguez. His roots in our District are at Zion Lutheran Church in Manchester, Conn. where he has been encouraged and blessed there by Rev. Dana Hallenbeck. Angel is in a brand new program of the Synod which trains those who wish to engage in Hispanic Ministry. The program is so new that Angel is the very first student and the program works hand in hand with Rev. Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Ind.
(Rev. Just has roots in New England and in the past was the pastor of one of our congregations so he has a great familiarity with New England.) Because Angel’s needs include growth in pastoral ministry in the Spanish language (of which he is fluent) doing supervisory work will be our own Rev. John Rasmussen of Our Savior Lutheran Church in South Windsor, Conn. who is himself proficient in Spanish. Once more this has come about because of the work of our Revitalizer Rev. Eric Sahlberg but also Rev. Jeremy Pekari who with Pastor Sahlberg has been coordinating with the seminaries a joint vision for training workers in New England. All God’s blessings and a true “El Senor te bendiga!” (The Lord bless you!) to Vicar Angel Rodriguez!
What about support for new church workers? We had three new men come to us this summer from the seminaries upon receiving their first calls here to New England. They are in Raynham, Mass.; Fitchburg, Mass.; and New Fairfield, Conn. A new group has formed under the Synodical Ministry called “Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support” (lovingly called PALS for short). This ministry of our Synod is designed to support new pastors in their first years of ministry and includes not only the pastor but the wife, if he is married, and his family. A PALS group is formed under the guidance of a veteran pastor who agrees to work with these new pastors and involves regular get-togethers for learning and support. I am delighted that Rev. Jonathan Manor and his wife, our Deaconess of Human Care Tiffany Manor, are spearheading the group that has just begun here in New England. We not only have new pastors of New England in this PALS group but a number of new pastors from the Atlantic District are included with our saints here in New England. I entirely commend the ministry of PALS because I know that learning does not end on graduation day at the Seminary (and when does learning really end this side of heaven?) and we realize that the formation of a Pastor certainly has major realities in the first few years of ministry. It is also a time
when Satan will do his best to disrupt and attack a new pastor before he can even get started in his service to the Lord – how wonderful to know that the Lord has these defenses already in place against the evil one!
These are exciting times in Jesus for the New England District. Kudos to Pastor Sahlberg’s revitalization efforts among us in Christ Jesus and also to Pastor Pekari for his efforts in creating a “New England Seminary” here in our part of the United States.
Kudos to our two new missionaries, Vicar Gem Gabriel and Vicar Angel Rodriguez, as they take their first footsteps among us on the road to pastoral ministry. Kudos to Pastor and Deaconess Manor as they work with our newly ordained Servant Shepherds of the Lord! Keep it coming Jesus. We wait upon the Lord!